In a small room in Suzhou Wujiang Science and Technology Park 10 years ago, the two founders of Xinhe Technology (the predecessor of “Xinhe semiconductor“) made a decision to devote themselves to “engaging” domestic EDA tools.
“At that time, Dr. Ling and I (the founder and CEO of Xinxinhe Semiconductor) were slowly conducting research and development in that small room, and now we have grown to a team of more than 100 people. Ten years is a long time, but it is also very short. We are still Full of initial passion for the industry.” Dr. Wenliang Dai, co-founder and vice president of engineering of Chiphe Semiconductor, talked about the company’s ten-year development process, and said that the decision to start a company and start a company “seems like yesterday.”
Today, Xinhe has become a leader in the domestic EDA industry, integrating a series of cutting-edge technologies such as the first revolutionary electromagnetic field simulator, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, providing simulation EDA solutions covering the entire industry chain from chips, packaging to systems . After ten years of accumulation, from the core “He” to the core “He”, in the words of Dai Wenliang, the company is gradually growing from the initial “small seedlings”.
Standing at the starting point of the next decade, Xinhe has carried out a comprehensive upgrade of the positioning of the EDA software business – to undertake the important task of connecting the semiconductor ecological chain from chip design to chip manufacturing, and to “work with” all partners in the EDA ecosystem seamlessly Interaction, “harmony” with upstream and downstream enterprises in the semiconductor industry chain are closely integrated, providing comprehensive solutions covering chip, packaging and system design, and better serving customers all over China and even around the world.
Specializing in EDA simulation tools, not “Me Too” products
In the field of simulation EDA, Xinhe has tried its best to be the best in the past ten years, and this has formed the foundation of the company’s core competitiveness.
As the necessary and most important integrated circuit software design tool for IC design, EDA tools cover all aspects of IC design – from simulation, synthesis to layout, from front-end to back-end, from analog to digital to hybrid design, and the latter Process manufacturing, etc. This is the most upstream track in the semiconductor industry, and its high threshold does not need to be repeated.
After more than 30 years of rapid development, the current global EDA industry competition is dominated by Cadence, Synopsys and Mentor Graphics, a subsidiary of Siemens. The three major EDA companies account for more than 60% of the global market. Ten years ago, there were few local Chinese entrepreneurial teams involved in this field. The two founders of Xinhe were well aware of the drama and difficulty of competition in this field. “At that time, many people even thought that we were crazy and chose such a difficult track.” Dai Wenliang said, but they found the “niche market” among them – EDA simulation tools.
“In a sense, the biggest core competitiveness is the ability to simulate.” Dai Wenliang pointed out to Jiwei.com that this is like when designing drawings before building a building, engineers must consider various engineering issues, such as How deep the foundation is, how thick the steel bars are, the level of earthquake resistance, etc. In order to minimize the problems that occur after the actual start of construction, the simulation capability is extremely critical. It can greatly reduce the iteration cycle and improve efficiency. The same is true for the semiconductor industry. “And for EDA simulation tools, the market can accommodate 2 to 3 companies.” Dai Wenliang said, “Unlike drawing tools and layout tools, IC designers will not switch easily. In terms of simulation tools, as long as I have a certain point Technically better than others, manufacturers are willing to switch tools to use.”
But Dai Wenliang pointed out that they realized at the time that they could not make “Me too” products, but to achieve differentiation – “If customers have pain points, we will do it; if the big manufacturers are unwilling to do it, we will do it; the big manufacturers will respond Slow, let’s do it.” Just like “knocking on the nails”, starting from the initial point tools, they gradually entered the EDA ecosystem, continued to penetrate the industry, and gradually formed with Cadence, Synopsys and other big companies Competitive and cooperative relationship, and formed a long-term partnership in some businesses.
EDA simulation technology started with SPICE circuit simulation in the 1970s. With the high-frequency and high-speed development of chips and systems, traditional field and circuit simulation technologies are far from meeting the new demands brought by advanced technology, advanced packaging and complex systems. Electromagnetic field simulation has also been introduced into the EDA simulation process. 5G, data centers, high-performance computing make electromagnetic field simulation as important as circuit simulation. This gives Xinhe such a latecomer an opportunity to catch up. The main field of core and focus is EDA simulation based on electromagnetic fields.
At present, in the global electromagnetic field solver market, apart from several established American manufacturers, Xinhe is the only domestic EDA that has two product lines, and has extended different product lines, which can provide coverage chips, packages and systems. The complete simulation EDA solution has a number of independent innovative technologies for electromagnetic and circuit simulation, and also includes novel parallel cloud computing solutions.
At the beginning of this year, Xinhe released its EDA cloud platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is the first EDA simulation platform on the cloud in China. Dai Wenliang pointed out that with the promotion of advanced process and advanced packaging technology, the design and verification EDA process from chip to packaging to system has become more and more complicated. The application of artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other technologies to EDA software must be the future. important direction. The migration of Xinhe’s EDA solution to AWS allows users to take advantage of the nearly unlimited computing, memory, storage and other resources provided by AWS to help users achieve the expansion of simulation operations and greatly shorten the design cycle and time to market.
In the next decade, make the industrial ecological “jigsaw puzzle” bigger
In the huge ecosystem of the semiconductor industry, EDA is a basic tool, and its success depends on its close interaction with upstream design and manufacturing companies to create value. Talking about the most difficult threshold that the company has crossed over the past ten years, Dai Wenliang believes that building and integrating into the industrial ecology is the most difficult step. Because EDA is finally implemented, it is not only implemented into code, but also understands technology and semiconductor devices. EDA tools need to be integrated with the industry.
Dai Wenliang recalled that in order to connect with the industry, Xinhe made various attempts and experienced many rejections at the beginning. “One of the contradictions is that when you ask an IC design company if they can use our EDA tool, their first reaction is, which Foundry supports this tool? And vice versa.”
This requires countless adjustments and polishing with industrial customers. During this process, Xinhe has become more and more aware that the deep connection with the Foundry factory is crucial to the establishment and development of the local EDA industry ecology. Dai Wenliang pointed out that EDA tools are the link between design and process. If there is no in-depth cooperation with wafer fabs, it will be difficult to truly understand the process and improve EDA software for advanced process design, which is also currently lacking in domestic EDA manufacturers. part. Among them, in terms of the process design kit (PDK), an important support for the combination of EDA tools and processes, the domestic development is even more insufficient. The development of PDK is very complicated and requires a lot of investment. At present, most of the domestic EDA manufacturers lack the foundation of PDK, which is directly related to the immaturity of the entire semiconductor ecosystem in China, and requires the overall progress of the semiconductor industry.
In the course of many years of development, Xinhe has made a lot of efforts to build and integrate into the industrial ecology, and gradually built a rich fab and partner ecosystem, which is also an important moat for Xinhe. At present, Xinhe’s EDA tools have been strictly certified by mainstream fabs such as TSMC, Samsung, GF, SMIC, STMicroelectronics, etc., including traditional CMOS, FinFET, BiCMOS, SOI, IPD and other different processes. At the same time, there are many EDA partners in the core and ecosystem, including Synopsys, Cadence, Mentor, Ansys and other major manufacturers, to achieve seamless connection with the mainstream design process.
At present, Xinhe has a total of 11 EDA tools, covering the entire industry chain from chips, packaging to system semiconductors. Four major end markets: networking, data center/high performance computing, and automotive electronics. As a variety of tools are continuously verified on advanced semiconductor process nodes and advanced packaging, and are widely used in 5G, smartphones, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and data centers, Core and EDA have effectively connected major IC design companies. with manufacturing companies.
While developing the full-link coverage of EDA simulation software in depth, Xinhe also expanded its business to the hardware level. It provides RF front-end filters and modules for mobile phone and IoT customers through its self-innovative filter and system-in-package (SiP) design platform, and was selected by Yole as the world’s leading supplier of integrated passive device (IPD) filters.
It is worth mentioning that Xinhe is the only EDA company in China that has its own filter IC design and system-in-package design team. Its internal IC design team is the first customer of the chip and EDA tools before the market, and the EDA tools verified by their actual projects will ensure the efficiency and quality of the products after they are released.
In April this year, Xinhe released the first domestic self-developed high-frequency BAW filter product. This low-insertion-loss, high-rejection WiFi 2.4GHz bandpass filter is based on high-performance BAW resonator technology and a full set of wafers. Advanced processing and packaging technology, the package size is only 1.1mm×0.9mm×0.6mm, which is fully compatible with the current mainstream 1109 WiFi bandpass filter size. The product performance is comparable to similar international leading products, and can meet the needs of various system applications such as smart phones, wireless terminals, portable routers, and wireless modules.
From EDA simulation software to filters, Dai Wenliang said that this “one soft and one hard” area will also be a key area for Xinhe to continue to explore in the next decade, and it happens to be the part of the domestic semiconductor industry that is stuck.
“At present, in the field of filters, more than 94% of the market is controlled by foreign manufacturers.” Dai Wenliang pointed out that in the 5G era, the requirements for RF front-end, especially filters, are particularly high, and filters of various technologies need to be integrated to achieve The best application in different frequency bands and performance, IPD filter is considered to be the best solution in the sub-6G and millimeter wave frequency band, and it is also one of the explosion points of the chip in the next few years. According to Yole Development statistics, the market size of RF filters in 2019 is US$12.8 billion, and it will rise to about US$28 billion in 2025, with an average annual growth rate of over 20%.
EDA, a “small and sophisticated” industrial chain link in the integrated circuit industry, has leveraged the global semiconductor market output value of more than 400 billion US dollars with its output value of less than 10 billion US dollars. Dai Wenliang said that for Xinhe, the next decade means more room for imagination. But he also pointed out that the current domestic EDA industry is still weak. “We have only done a small part of it.” He hopes that more and more people will join the domestic EDA field in the future, so as to make the “jigsaw” of the industrial ecology more and more perfect, “The semiconductor industry chain is too long, Craftsmanship and technology are developing rapidly, and this is an industry that requires many people to persevere and take root for a long time.”